Although there is much confidence surrounding the Hamilton Tiger-Cats heading into the 2012 CFL season after the hiring of new head coach George Cortez and the acquisition of quarterback Henry Burris, their roster moves this week also indicate a little uncertainty within the team’s offence. Hamilton announced Wednesday it had released running back Avon Cobourne, non-import offensive lineman Simeon Rottier and defensive lineman Luc Mullinder.
Of the three, Mullinder’s departure is innocuous. The 31-year-old arrived in August after he was unable to agree to terms with the Alouettes, and was only used in select situations. But the success, or failure, of the Ticats’ attack might eventually be measured against the absence of both Cobourne and Rottier.
When Hamilton signed former B.C. Lions running back Martell Mallett, the 2009 rookie of the year, on Monday, its backfield became a little crowded with Mallett, Cobourne and Terry Grant.
“We spoke with Avon following the addition of Martell Mallett to our roster to determine what course of action he would prefer,” O’Billovich said in a club statement. “After speaking with him again [Wednesday], we are granting Avon’s request to be released.”
Cobourne, who arrived in Hamilton from Montreal last year, was fourth in the league in rushing in 2011 with 961 yards, and he had over 1,400 combined yards for the third straight year. But he gained 75 yards or more on the ground just four times during the regular season, and crossed the 100 mark only twice.
“Thanx for the love and this business is sh– but it the business,” Cobourne tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “But it makes you go harder when the next opportunity comes.”
It appears O’Billovich and Cortez believe the 25-year-old Mallett and Grant, who continues to recover from a leg injury suffered in October, will be enough to power Hamilton’s running game. Mallett had 1,240 rushing yards in his only previous CFL season. Grant, when he was given an opportunity to take handoffs late in the season, averaged 7.6 yards in 20 carries.
The hole Rottier has left in the right side of the offensive line is conspicuous. It is clear O’Billovich wanted to keep the third year right guard from Westlock, Alta. Rottier was the first overall selection in the 2009 draft.
“Over the last few months, we’ve presented multiple contract offers to Simeon and his representatives, including our most recent offer that would have made him one of the league’s highest paid linemen,” O’Billovich said.
“After our latest offer was rejected, it was clear Simeon would not return to Hamilton in 2012.”
The 28-year-old Rottier has established himself as one of the league’s best guards, and The Edmonton Journal reported Wednesday that Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman is interested in him.
“We have certainly expressed our desire for Simeon to finish his career as an Eskimo,” Tillman said,” but nothing is imminent and I’m sure they’ll take their time and review all of Simeon’s options.”
It will be interesting to see if the Ticats pursue an alternative through free agency, such as Winnipeg guard Brendon LaBatte or Edmonton guard Kyle Koch, or mine talent from the Canadian draft in May.
Either way, finding an adequate replacement for Rottier will be important to assuring Mallett, Grant and Burris can be successful in the backfield.
National Post, with files from Chris O’Leary, Postmedia News